I must be doing something right.
My wife complimented me tonight after dinner. Don’t laugh, it happens. This particular evening prompted an unexpected and pleasantly surprising comment. One I thought worth sharing with you romantically challenged guys out there.
As I was cleaning up the dishes, Patrice commented that “Dinner with you is always like a date.” I could only smile. I have always considered one of the keys to a great marriage to be maintaining an “Always Keep Dating” mindset. So hearing my wife make that observation was like shooting even par on a round of golf. It feels good because you know you have to be doing something right.
Keeping a dating mindset doesn’t mean you have to go out on a date, although the occasional night out is always appreciated by the wife. Over the years I have discovered that when in doubt about the meaning of anything your wife has said, it is better to seek clarification – immediately. It will save you a lot of trouble and nights on the couch. So after hearing Patrice’s comment, I stopped and asked her, most carefully, to please explain why she felt that dinner tonight “felt like a date.”
Then I held my breath.
I wasn’t prepared for what she said.
“Buddy, they say a great date is a combination of “good friends, good food and good conversation.” With you, it is all that and more.
- You make me feel special!
- You still manage to compliment me in sweet ways even when I’m not dolled up. You make me feel beautiful.
- You join me in cooking and clean up afterwards – its a shared moment in our busy day. You make me feel like a precious wife rather than a maid.
- You always take my hand in prayer and thanksgiving before we eat.
- You are a good listener and you give me your undivided attention, setting aside your i-Phone and email (well, most of the time anyway).
- You are always engaged in our conversations, and you don’t just nod your head and say uh-huh when I’m talking. And, while you may occasionally challenge my opinions, you are never critical of them.
- You are affectionately attentive in a tender and respectful way. Sometimes it’s a quick kiss while I’m cooking, or just the way you look at me when I’m sharing something about my day. Yes, you even still flirt with me at times.
- You like to surprise me still, and you make me laugh.
- Even in the comfort and privacy of our own home when we are alone, you are on your best behavior. This makes me feel that I am important to you.
- In public, you never embarrass me. I can even see your integrity shining through in how you treat a waitress or waiter, with respect, and it makes me proud to be with you.
- I know you are my safe place, the one in whom I can confide. You are the one who gives me courage and empowers me to handle daunting tasks and weather life’s storms.
- You build my self-esteem and confidence. I always feel stronger and better about myself after having spent time with you.
I must confess that such comments humble me. I guess decades of good habits pay off. That being said, allow me to offer a word of caution! Patrice mentioned that I occasionally flirt with her. That is true, but while I think an aspect of dating that needs to continue in marriage is the act of flirting, for many people, flirting has a negative connotation. Being labeled a flirt is not considered a compliment. At the very least, it conjures up visions of inappropriate teasing, or at worst, impure motives. In marriage, I consider the act of flirting to be an act reserved exclusively for your spouse. Such exclusivity between husband and wife adds inestimable value to the expression and, done appropriately, can make one feel desirable as well as be a source of joy, laughter, and fond memories.
While I define this fundamental marriage principle as Always Keep Dating, Dr. Allen Hunt in his book, The 21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage, labels it differently. His secret #5 is “The Secret of Little Things – Marriage is a garden, not a fruit stand. You have to tend it.” He goes on to quote Marriage researchers Dr. John Gottman and his wife, Julie, as being able to predict with 94 percent accuracy whether a couple will eventually divorce – after only watching them interact for ten minutes. They believe that a successful marriage lives or dies based on the little things. So they look for a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.
“Positive interactions include simple things such as a smile, a touch on the arm, looking directly into your partner’s eyes, paying attention to what he or she says, saying thank you, sharing a quick hug or a giggle. Negative interactions include rolling the eyes, turning a cold shoulder, a dismissive harrumph, a mocking chuckle, or failing to listen or acknowledge what your spouse is saying.” (1)
Having an Always Keep Dating mindset can help us guys maintain that 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. Besides, it is just an attitude that says we want to keep the romance alive. Obviously, my wife still delights in my pursuing and woo-ing!
So after hearing her list all of my dating-like behaviors, I told her there is one BIG difference, “Before we married, at the end of any date, after I kissed you goodnight, I had to leave.” She immediately interrupted and replied, with a wide grin on her face, “…and now, you get to stay.”
(1) Dr. Allen Hunt, The 21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage, Beacon Publishing, 2015, pages 63-65